Earlier today, I dropped off a $100 gift card to my local fire department, where they were arranging a collection for a family in town whose home had burned down a few days ago. My gift was not the only one given to the family. Many others in town and from around the area also donated.
I don’t know the family whose house it was. I don’t know their name. I don’t know exactly where they live in town. I don’t know if they are a traditional family. I don’t know what race(s) they are. I don’t know their politics. I don’t know their religion or non-religion. I don’t know their income. I don’t know if they are nice people. I don’t know how the fire started. I don’t know if they have homeowner’s insurance.
All I know is that something bad happened to them, and I have a small way to help. And they will never know me, or that I was one of many who gave to them. Religion, non-religion — it should not matter. We should not allow it to matter. We should not allow religion to be an excuse.
Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg reportedly said “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” I agree with Weinberg’s first point but not the second. I don’t accept that it takes religion for good people to do evil because religion only serves as the excuse. It serves as the post-hoc rationalization. In the same way, it was not atheism that compelled me to donate $100 to strangers.
It was empathy for fellows, and only that.